In April, the members of the Playing For Change Band made their 6th appearance at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia. This was the festival’s 30th year anniversary, and it featured a lineup of renowned world musicians such as Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, George Clinton, Mavis Staples, and Gary Clark Jr., as well as some PFC favorites like Jack Johnson, Keb’ Mo’, and Larkin Poe.
Byron Bay Bluesfest
From humble beginnings, the Byron Bay Bluesfest has grown to become one of the world’s largest venues for live blues music. The festival has attracted international attention by featuring some of the biggest names in music, routinely drawing in global audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
In the past, Bluesfest has been headlined by the likes of Bob Dylan, BB King, John Mayer, John Legend, Angélique Kidjo, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and many more outstanding artists. It has also led rise to the annual Boomerang Festival, a ground-breaking Indigenous arts festival for all Australians featuring an array of music, dance, theatre, comedy, and film, all to celebrate the heritage of first nations people.
As the Byron Bay Bluesfest continues to grow, its yearly celebrations of music, culture, and community have grown far beyond their blues, jazz, and roots beginnings, becoming a world stage home to Australia.
Playing For Change Band
For the past 6 years, the PFC Band has been honored to connect with international audiences on one of Australia’s greatest stages. Although the band has seen many new faces and friends throughout the years, the mission to “connect the world through music” has always remained the same.
With Titi and Tula, Mermans and Tamba, Keiko, Roberto, Robin, Chantz, and more, the band was in full swing by the time they arrived in Byron Bay, having just played together in Bahrain a few weeks prior. They also managed to play a second show while in Sydney that same weekend, sharing the music with as many people as they could.
At the heart and soul of the PFC Band, we were overjoyed to see Grandpa Elliott make his way down under, gracing the Australian audiences with his profound bellowing voice and uplifting harmonica chimes.
In anticipation for the band’s 6th appearance at the Byron Bay Bluesfest, organizers wrote:
“Playing for Change is back to share their powerful live performance with everyone at Bluesfest this Easter 2019. The unique fusion of influences and music from more than seven countries allows for an extremely special performance. United in purpose and in chorus, everyone is touched by music’s unifying power!“
From an Iowa farm girl to the Berklee College of Music, and finally beyond as “Lady B”, bass queen of the Florida Keys, Claire Finley has amassed a wealth of experience in her time as a professional musician. Now, she has started a new chapter as lead bassist for the Playing For Change Band, touring in Bahrain, Brazil, and recently arriving in Australia for the upcoming Byron Bay Bluesfest this weekend.
To formally introduce our newest member of the PFC Band, we asked Claire to share her story.
Although a bassist at heart, Lady B’s first connection to music was through the piano, which she started “plunking out melodies” on by the age of four. From then on, Claire made the plunge into performance, practicing-traveling-and-competing her way in classical piano, knocking down 11 consecutive superior ratings by her senior year of high school. Beyond piano, Claire tried her hand at nearly every other instrument and opportunity she could, “playing violin in orchestra, electric bass in jazz band, bass drum in drumline/marching band, French Horn and percussion in concert band and electric guitar“. As a driven musician from a young age, she notes that she has her parents to thank for supporting her ambition and busy schedule.
Picking up the bass in fifth grade, Claire had discovered an entirely new medium for expression through the instrument and began playing in the church band and the middle school jazz band immediately.
“The Bass seemed to give me an outlet that the classical piano didn’t offer. My place in the classical world was about perfection….carefully emulating famous works by renowned composers and being judged on my interpretation of what was notated on the page. Although I had appreciated the meticulous and detail-oriented nature of the style, I knew there was another musical world out there where self-expression was welcomed and encouraged.“
It was only once Claire discovered her love for the bass that she came to the realization that music was going to be her life. She says, “I had finally found an instrument that resonated with my idea that music should be joyful, creative, and fun“. Since then, she has lived a musical life that is just that. She has always gone with where the music takes her, and as of most recently, it has brought her to new countries, new audiences and new experiences in her role with the Playing For Change Band.
When did you first hear about Playing For Change?
I first heard about Playing For Change several years ago, having seen a couple of the viral videos being shared by friends online. However, I didn’t realize these very moving videos were also part of a non-profit to raise money to support the creation and sustainment of music schools around the world. I remember being brought to tears, seeing so many different people from all over the world with different beliefs and cultures coming together to play the same song. A genius idea to promote world peace through music.
How did you eventually get involved with the PFC Band?
I was invited to attend and perform at the wedding celebration of my friend and PFC advocate, Savannah Buffet and her fiancée, Joshua. The special weekend finally came and there were lots of late-night jams with all the musicians in attendance during the celebrations. That’s when I ended up meeting Mark Johnson and Raan Williams and jamming with Robin Moxey, one of the producers and guitarists in the PFC band. We all hit it off immediately and musical magic was in the air!
Five months later, this incredible weekend morphed into the PFC crew coming to Key West, Florida to film and record ME for my very first appearance in a song around the world. I will never forget the feeling I had when we were setting up at my favorite beach with the recording gear and film crew. I felt like this was it…I finally found what I was supposed to be doing with my music. The idea that music is the only international language had always resonated with me…but this was a project that could actually prove visually and sonically that this theory was true.
Is this the largest band you’ve ever been a part of?
The Playing For Change Band is definitely one of the largest musical collaborations I’ve been a part of. While at Berklee, I participated in many performances with large groups but they were always one-off shows for special occasions. The difference from these experiences is that the Playing For Change Band is a family. It’s about creating a foundation of support to continue spreading the word of the movement throughout the world. Being a solid band unit allows us to build on this foundation and learn from each other constantly. Everyone hears and performs music differently. The opportunity to be surrounded by so many talented international musicians, all with different stories to tell, is truly a dream come true.
As an artist who routinely performs with many different groups, is there anything unique/special about the PFC Band that you haven’t experienced anywhere else?
Absolutely. Playing music for such a good cause, using my musical powers for the greater good of humanity, is an amazing feeling. The memories we are able to create while on the road are memories I will cherish forever. Even outside of the music our friendships are strong and we are there for each other. Having the opportunity to hone in on the African, Latin, Reggae, Blues, and other styles of music we play are very exciting. We are all learning together and teach each other. I’m pretty sure Mermans Mosengo knows everyone’s’ parts! If I ever forget or have a hard time with a bass line or rhythm, he is right there showing me the way. I’ve already learned so much in the short time I’ve been in the band!
What’s been the highlight of performing with the band so far, and is there anything that you’re most looking forward to in the coming months/year?
Since I joined PFC in October, I’ve already had the opportunity to travel to two places that I always wanted to go, Brazil and the Middle East. Now, Australia! Travel has always been a huge passion for me so being able to combine this with music and great people fills me with joy. I am thrilled and looking forward to continuing this adventure, traveling to even more places I’ve never been, and musically connecting with as many people as I can across the globe.
We heard that you recorded one of your songs with Mark Johnson and the PFC Band. Can you tell us more about “Run”, and what it was like to perform/record your song with the whole group?
‘Run’ was a song that I wrote with my friend Jason Lamson in my living room in Key West Florida. Feeling inspired to write more after a successful songwriting visit from Robin Moxey, I called up Jason and asked if he wanted to get together to brainstorm and try to write a song. He swung by with his notebook and showed me a lyrical melody idea he had, “I’m gonna run, as fast as I can”. That line inspired me. How cool would it be to write a song that focuses on running towards the good instead of away from the bad?
Robin helped me come to the realization during his visit that I had a story to tell and needed to tell it, so I did and it turned into ‘Run’. The lyrics of this song resonate with the feelings of fear and longing that I’ve experienced living the life of a musician and always striving to get to that next level. In order to pursue this dream, I needed to give up the comforts and financial security of the wedding band business, which scared me. But, there was something else out there. It was finally time to run towards all those positive opportunities and take a chance for something even better, which ended up coming to complete fruition when I became a part of the Playing For Change Movement.
First hearing the song performed live by the band was an overwhelming and emotional experience. To have created something that has the chance of inspiring others to “dream big and take chances” fills me with such joy. Another big moment for me was when we were at 2 Seas in Bahrain working on the official studio version. Titi Tsira and the rest of the band put their magic touch on the track and just blew me away. Even down to Merman’s perfectly timed vibra-slaps. Hahaha… it was a moment I will never forget.
What does Playing For Change mean to you?
The entire Playing For Change Movement resonates in a huge way for me. Our musical voices are so much stronger together than alone. United, we have a much better chance of actually being heard by the rest of the world. The opportunity to SEE the change, and BE the change with such an incredible group of people is an honor that I will never take for granted.
Are you working on anything else right now that you’d like to share with us?
Currently, in between PFC adventures, I try to fill my life with experiences that will help facilitate creativity and inspiration to write more songs! The life of a musician is never boring! ; )
Thank you Claire for sharing a glimpse into your life, and thank you for everything you bring to the Playing For Change Band!
With decades of experience to show for it, Vasti Jackson‘s love and admiration for the blues is undeniable. Throughout his vast career, he has shown himself to be a true “Bard of the Blues,” telling stories of the genre’s roots, teaching audiences about the struggle from which the blues was born, and carrying on the soulful tradition for new generations to grab a hold of.
Born in McComb, Mississippi, Vasti Jackson was bound to be indoctrinated into the blues. First by family, and then through his surroundings, he gained invaluable experience growing up surrounded by the influence of the Delta blues. With a strong attraction to the guitar, Vasti began performing at local churches and juke joints while studying music at Jackson State University. As his artistry developed, Vasti was employed as a session musician working for various labels until he was named musical director for the television show, Blues Goin’ On. Throughout this period, he continued to perfect his craft, moving effortlessly from blues to soul to jazz to funk to gospel to pop, and more.
The early 90’s is where Vasti would find his rhythm, writing many songs from his life, releasing his debut album Vas-Tie Jackson, and partaking in recordings with other notable musicians such as B.B. King. In 2012, Vasti was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, forever leaving his mark on the Mississippi Delta Blues.
“As an artist, Vastiis known for sweat-drenched, soul-ripping performances marked by some of the most stunning and innovative guitar playing in Blues today. Vasti’s talent has been enlarged by an amazing array of musical experiences over 35 years of his vibrant career. Jackson’s Recordings “No Borders to the Blues”, “Live In Nashville” and “Mississippi Burner” present audio buffet of Vasti’s limitless energy and boundless imagination. It spotlights his talents as singer, and composer, and his utterly thrilling guitar mastery.”
Wherever he goes, the blues seems to follow, and wherever the blues are, you’re sure to find Vasti.
Career with PFC
For more than 5 years, Vasti Jackson has been involved with the Playing For Change Movement, first through live performances with the PFC Band, and eventually joining in a few Songs Around The World as well. With his wealth of knowledge and boundless musical talent, his contributions to Playing For Change have impacted the lives of thousands of supporters, as well as students from across the world.
Recently, Vasti traveled to the Saharan Desert with the PFC Foundation to visit the Joudour Sahara Music Program. Meeting with local musicians from the M’Hamid el Ghizlane region of southern Morocco, Vasti and Maya Kyles, a young drummer also from Mississippi, taught lessons and performed together, working to find the connection between blues from the two continents.
When he isn’t traveling the world, VastiJackson continues to educate audiences on the history of the blues and African culture in America. From January 29th through February 10th, Vasti served as musical director and a performer in the Marcus Gardley story, “Hell in High Water.” This play relives the account of the Great Flood of 1927. Set in Greenville, this story follows the social, economic, and political realities of an entire city of people who are subject to the powerful will of the Mississippi River.
Along with his fellow cast mates, Vasti recently hosted a PFC live stream while on set:
As a musician who continuously pushes himself beyond borders, across cultures, and into the lives of new world audiences, Vasti Jackson is the embodiment of our mission to connect the world through music. We look forward to reuniting with him again soon, and encourage you to keep your eye on Vasti.
Larkin Poe, a sister duo raised in Atlanta and based out of Nashville, are a rising southern roots and rock group that has a bit more connection to their roots than you’d expect. Receiving their name in honor of their great-great-great grandfather, Larkin Poe, cousin of Edgar Allen Poe, both Rebecca and Megan Lovell are carrying on the family legacy of artistry, one stunned crowd at a time.
Boasting their strong southern harmonies, gritty guitar riffs, and endlessly rhythmic vocals, Larkin Poe have developed their personal brand of blues throughout countless collaborations with premier musicians, ranging from Elvis Costello to Gary Clark Jr., Keith Urban and even Steven Tyler. Beginning their career as teenagers in 2005, the girls had formed a trio with their third sister, Jessica, calling themselves The Lovell Sisters. For four years, the sisters toured, wrote new music, performed at festivals like Bonnaroo, and self-released two albums of their own, all while honing their talents and refining their abilities. When the trio disbanded in 2009, Rebecca and Megan joined together to form Larkin Poe, and since then, have developed a masterful wheelhouse of old blues ballads and their own new-age Americana sound.
During their first three years as a duo, Larkin Poe released five independent projects and two collaboration albums. In 2013, the sisters managed to sign their first record deal with RH music, and immediately began their first full-length album, Kin. Following its release, the pair went back on the road, making appearances at Lollapalooza, Glastonbury (twice), and another stop in at Bonnaroo. In 2016, Larkin Poe contributed to Steven Tyler’s solo debut album, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere, and just last year, they were invited to perform with Don Henley and Jackson Browne at the Tom Petty Tribute performance in Los Angeles. Along the way, Larkin Poe has managed to release three additional albums, with their latest arriving just last week, November 9th, titled, Venom and Faith.
“Larkin Poe are not only highly professional, nearly perfect musicians, they also manage to add a new passion, modernity, and elegant coolness to the genre of Rock.”
Run In With PFC
We first heard about Larkin Poe through our friendship and collaboration with Robbie Robertson of The Band and his son Sebastian. They are both fans of Larkin Poe and once we checked them out, we too became fans for life. We were able to meet up with the sisters in Venice Beach, California, to record them performing a Live Outside rendition of Robert Johnson’s, “Come On in My Kitchen,” which was also featured on their 2017 album, Peach:
“We’re two southern sisters: born in Tennessee, raised in Georgia. Having grown up in the south, the blues has always been a huge part of our musical upbringing. In the past few years, we’ve been inspired to strip it back to our roots and pay tribute to the music that raised us… And “Come On in My Kitchen” was one of the first blues tunes we ever learned how to play.” – Larkin Poe
Currently, Larkin Poe is in the midst of a tumultuous tour with tickets still available for shows throughout the U.S. and Canada, U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, and Australia among many more locations worldwide. They will be traveling throughout spring, with shows booked until the end of April, and their full tour schedule and ticket locations are available on their PFC musician profile.
We are grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with such an inspiring and impressive pair as Larkin Poe, and are excited to see what more will come from the soulful southern sisters.
“This song was co-written by Mermans Mosengo and my brother, Greg Johnson, a few years ago while we were on tour with the PFC Band. The simple message and anthemic chorus made me really excited to record it as a PFC Song Around The World. We started under the hot African sun in the village of Lukala in the Congo and we added musicians wherever we traveled for the past few years until we finally added the final piece with Grandpa Elliott playing the harmonica solo in New Orleans. Someday we’ll all be free, until then, music is our ammunition.”
It has been twelve years since the Playing For Change crew and Afro Fiesta first crossed paths in Cape Town, South Africa in 2006. Although the band’s roots are drawn from many different regions and nations throughout the world, the heart of their heritage lies in the Congo, where Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo of the PFC Band both grew up.
Both men have been committed to a life full of music from an early age. With decades of experience and performance now behind them, they speak the language of music just as well as any of the other languages in their arsenal, all of which are utilized in Afro Fiesta’s variety of songs. Yet, within this arsenal of creative ability, the band moves on the offensive, using Music as their Ammunition. Having great pride in their country, Jason and Mermans sing of the pain in their nation’s past, the beauty in its people, and the dreams they have for a free world.
Playing together for years has helped the two PFC musicians develop a special chemistry that is present whether they are performing in a 12-member band or just jamming out with each other. Their ever-present sound draws equally from both band mates where some songs partner Jason’s melodic French/English/Lingala lyrics with Mermans’ skill in percussion, while others rely on Mermans’ dense and deep vibrato and sharp strumming, backed by Jason’s rhythmic guitar and gentle vocals. The genre’s they draw from are a mix of Roots Reggae, Makossa, and Congolese rumba, with Latin and Rasta influence as well.
In tune with our most recent release, Afro Fiesta’s “Congo To The Mississippi” harnesses nearly all of these harmonious characteristics into one song, taking listeners on an audiovisual journey from the Congo and onward, all in pursuit of people living free.
In their own words:
Jason tells us a wonderful story of how he built his first guitar:
Mermans ‘Mo Faya’ Mosengo
Mermans sharing some truth about the Congo’s past and the meaning behind “Music is my Ammunition”:
Quote of the Day
“When the fans listen to our music they will feel hope. The struggle continues, ‘a lutta continua a Victoria e serta’ fighting alone will get you tired but fighting in a group will get you into a rhythm. I want my people to know we are together in the fight for the Congo.”
Mermans Mosengo, Afro Fiesta
Photo of the Day
Afro Fiesta is just one of the many bands in the world finding new ways to fight war, pain, and poverty. Why fight fire with fire when you’ve got an abundance of love to share? Just as Jason and Mermans are willing to step forward and lead in the push for peace through music, so too will there be those willing to join them and play by their side. From the Congo to the Mississippi, an endless array of people, cultures, and countries exist, each bearing their own unique languages, customs, and borders. Our greatest tool to connect this world is music, “because music goes where people cannot go, music goes” (Mermans Mosengo).
Thank you to Jason Tamba, Mermans Mosengo, Greg Johnson, and every PFC musician and supporter out there!
“I do not see my guitar as a gun but rather as a hammer with which to help build the house of the Tuareg people.”
With over 1400 years of deeply rooted historical and cultural context in a single song, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” comes from a different breed of rebel rockers. Kel Tamasheq, known commonly as the Tuareg people, are an ancient society of nomads and herdsmen that exist across the Western Sahara desert, spread into regions of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Libya and Algeria. For the Tuareg, the desert has always been their home, but this home has come at a great cost to its people. Throughout the 19th century, colonial imposition cut borders across the Sahara desert, dividing the Tuareg into any of these five neighboring nations. Due to the Tuareg’s powerful resistance of French control, their governance and territory was overwritten by colonial rule, while other less threatening nations arose in cooperation with European expansion. From this division came even more violence as the Tuareg community clashed with their new hosts and governments. Yet, as these nations fought for control over the region, so too did the Tuareg continue their fight for autonomy, seeking independence from the powers that they never wished to be a part of.
In this endless rebellion, death, discrimination, and exile had become all too common for the Tuareg people. So, in hopes of returning to an era of peace, many veterans of the rebellion have put down their guns in exchange for guitars, taking to music to celebrate their life, culture, and to bring about an end to this century-old struggle.
One such rebel who has gained international recognition for his remarkable talent and career is Omar “Bombino” Moctar. Born in Niger in 1980, Bombino is a Tuareg rock ‘n’ rebel who learned guitar at a young age, citing Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler as his greatest influences. Dubbed, “The Sultan of Shred,” Bombino has long been recognized as one of the world’s most talented guitarists, but while his career has gained considerable attraction in recent years, his home life has been all but predictable. In the early 90’s, Bombino’s family was forced to flee to Algeria to escape conflict that arose against the Tuareg. It was during this exile that Bombino was first introduced to the guitar, and years later upon his return to Niger, he would join a band where he first received the nickname, “Bombino,” which is a variation of the italian word for, “little child.”
Despite returning home, building his career and shaping his path, Bombino was forced into exile once again when Tuareg rebels clashed with the Nigerien government in 2007. Along with Tuareg soldiers, the government also labeled Tuareg guitarists as enemy’s of the state, due in large part to their rebellious lyrics and opposition of Nigerien control.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Bombino would return to his hometown of Agadez. In celebration of the peace treaty between the government and the Tuareg, Bombino was granted permission by the Sultan of Agadez to host a live performance in the center of town, an event that would have been unthinkable just a few years prior.
The title of this song translates to, “I greet my country,” and it was originally written by another Tuareg rebel, Intayaden, and was later re-imagined by Bombino on his album, Agadez. Though simple in structure, it is in its simplicity that it captures the powerful sentiment of pain and sorrow felt by Bombino, the Tuareg, and all those who understand the context in which it is being sung. Truly, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” is an acknowledgment of the hardship endured by all Kel Tamasheq, but its purpose lies in its ability to connect the people of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Libya, and Algeria together through its music.
“I greet my country where I left my parents
I greet my country
I greet my country where I left my love
I greet my country
I greet my country where I left my community
I greet my country
You know that I am suffering from it
I greet my country”
In collaboration with Playing For Change, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” is the embodiment of our mission to connect the world through music, and this song, in particular, shows us the power of a single song to unite those separated by borders. In the words of PFC co-founder, Mark Johnson, “The unity of musicians around the world playing on this song is a statement that music is part of the foundation from which we rebuild our humanity and our world together”. With thanks to Bombino, the PFC team, and the many musicians who made this newest release possible, please enjoy our rendition of “Ahoulaguine Akaline,” featuring the world.
Quote of the Day:
“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”
Video of the Day:
This video is from Bombino’s 2010 return to Agadez, mentioned above.
Photo of the Day:
Mark Johnson pictured with Bombino in Los Angeles, July 17th.
We’d like to introduce you to our friend, partner, and honorary PFC Band member, Lee Oskar, who’s a world-renowned harmonica virtuoso, composer, producer, visual artist, musical explorer and harmonica manufacturer. As a founding member of the funk/jazz group WAR, Lee toured globally exposing the harmonica to many people and countries where the musical instrument was not part of the culture. He then went on to found Lee Oskar Harmonicas—available in various keys with standard and altered tunings—which allow musicians to play a wide range of musical genres and styles.
Learn more about this unique instrument from the virtuoso himself in a series of short videos we’ve titled Harmonic Conversations with Lee Oskar. Check out the first episode below and look out for our future episodes being released soon.
(8/1/18) Episode 1: Lee explains how anyone can play the harmonica.
(8/15/18) Episode 2: Lee talks about playing the Chicago blues.
(8/29/18) Episode 3: Lee explains the difference between the major diatonic harmonica and his signature “Melody Maker” harmonica.
(9/12/18) Episode 4: Lee talks about using his “Melody Maker” harmonica to play reggae and African music.
(9/26/18) Lee discusses the natural minor harmonica and how harmony, melody, and rhythm work together.
(10/10/18) Lee discusses playing “international blues” with the harmonic minor harmonica.
WIN A LEE OSKAR HARMONICA!!!
Congratulations to our July winner, Michael. Enter below for a chance to win a Lee Oskar harmonica of your own.
“One evening, a few years ago in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, the PFC crew and I were waiting for an 80-year-old cuica player to perform on a Song Around The World. I remember it seemed to take forever for him to make it down the hill, as he would stop off in every bar along the way for a drink and some conversation. As we waited I looked and saw a Rastaman walking across the street with his acoustic guitar in hand. I waved to him and he came over to see what we were doing with all our equipment. I told him about Playing For Change and he agreed to play a song for us while we were waiting. The result was an incredible, spontaneous performance of Dennis Brown’s ‘Rasta Children.’ His voice reminded me of Peter Tosh and he sang with so much soul that we realized this could be an amazing Song Around The World. Just one man and his guitar playing on the street set the tone for this song and we added a worldwide band of roots musicians around him. ‘I and I deal with humanity…'”
– Mark Johnson, PFC Co-Founder
Rasta Children’s Roots
“Rasta Children” was released in 1979 by Dennis Brown, who was known as The Crown Prince of Reggae. One of Bob Marley’s favorite singers, Brown led a prolific career having recorded more than 75 albums throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. It was actually in Brazil where his journey would end—falling ill with pneumonia in 1999 and dying of a collapsed lung days later. Yet, while his physical journey on this earth would come to a close, his musical legacy continues to live on years later thanks to a chance encounter in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
With help from 16 different musicians across 6 different countries, PFC’s rendition of “Rasta Children” is a beautiful melting pot of talent. Of course, the Rastaman mentioned above is Paulo César “da Luz” Pereira, whom we met back in 2011. As he was the true inspiration for this Song Around The World, we are lucky considering all of the forces that allowed our paths to cross. Had it not been for the popularity of the 80-year-old cuica player, we may never have been able to capture such an organic and truly special performance, nor could we have gone on to share it with musicians and supporters around the world.
This meeting shows us the beauty in the world just waiting to be discovered, and the chance encounters that bring these moments to reality. One such story is that of another musician in this collaboration, Brushy One String, who began his career many years ago as a street musician in Jamaica. With an uncanny similarity to PFC’s earliest beginnings, a filmmaker named Luciano Blotta was leaving a Jamaican recording studio when he noticed a man on the corner playing an old acoustic guitar with only one string. After recording his song, “Chicken in the Corn,” Blotta left Jamaica only to find the video blow up on the internet with thousands of people suddenly showing their love and support for Brushy. Since then, he has led a full career performing in places like France, Argentina, Japan, and the U.S., while continuing to play throughout Jamaica. It seemed only fitting, then, that Brushy join with PFC to record “Rasta Children” in his hometown of Ocho Rios, and continue to promote a life dedicated to peace and unity through music:
“If we can change the words and melodies and bring back the love, we can have a balance between God and man,” Brushy reflects. “That’s what we need to put the world together.”
Very much in frequency with Rasta Children’s nature sits Nattali Rize, a roots-rock-and-reggae rebel queen who has earned international fame as a singer/songwriter and social activist. Beginning as a street percussionist in Byron Bay, Australia, her career has grown through her dedication to an urban roots collective, Blue King Brown, and on to building her own band, changing her name from Natalie Pa’apa’a to Nattali Rize to reflect Bob Marley’s lyrics for “Rise Up.” With an emboldened attitude, Nattali Rize’s performances are praised for their, “epic, high energy, thought-provoking and uplifting live performances,” (Nattali Rize). Another featured musician in “Rasta Children” that deserves just as much credit to the success of Nattali Rize is Carlo Santone, a bandmate, manager, and partner of Nattali’s, who has worked with her since 2004.
Currently, Nattali Rize is just coming off a West Coast California tour, and will continue performing her latest album, Rebel Frequency, throughout France until the end of August. The full album is available by following the link above, and it boasts just as much of its Rastafarian roots while blending her own New-Era style and humanitarian message.
“Never forget, we are one human family and no one, man or woman or child, is illegal. We are the pioneers of a paradigm change and creators of a new world!”
We are introducing a new feature on the Playing For Change website. Now on musician pages, along with photos, featured videos, and related links and musician accounts, we will also be promoting individual tours and shows happening around the world. You can view our entire musician tour schedule by following the musician tour dates link above, as well as access individual events by searching for your favorite artists’ PFC page.
While this is an ongoing process, you can expect more tour information to be uploaded and updated regularly as we are always collecting new and amazing musicians. One of our longtime friends, Roberto Luti, will be performing in Denmark with Luke Winslow-King this August. Find more information about these events by following the link provided.
On June 1st, Playing For Change posted the music video to “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit”, making it the sixth song from Listen To The Music to be released in video. While the video is just under 5 minutes long, this collaboration is actually 5 years in the making, and spans 6 different countries, featuring 16 different artists. Whether you haven’t seen the release yet, or you’ve been watching it on repeat for the past two weeks, it’s always worth the watch, check it out below.
This collaboration shows two sides of the same world:
“The original idea for this Bob Marley Song Around The World was born back in 2013 when the PFC crew first visited the Congo. Mark asked himself, ‘How can we live in a world that allows people to live like this, with virtually no food, no money, and no hope?’ The lyric, ‘Things are not the way they used to be…one and all got to face reality’ came to mind as he looked out into the river of garbage running through the city. ‘Natural Mystic always felt so deep in its groove and lyrics and it seemed as important and urgent as what I was seeing all around me,'” says Mark.
We need to rise up and make the planet a better place right now for ourselves, our children, and all living things. ‘Just a Little Bit’ written and performed by Paula Fuga was added as a medley to ‘Natural Mystic’ to take the music from minor key to the major key—from the darkness to the light.”
The musicians featured in this video come from all over the world, like drummer Courtney “Bam” Diedrick from Jamaica and ATD Horns from Burkina Faso, to Lee Oskar in Seattle, Washington and Yu Hatakeyama from Tokyo, Japan. Despite every conceivable difference that separates each of these performers, this video has been made possible by the one unique commonality shared by all people. They all share the internal resonance that is music.
Along with new artists to the PFC family like Donald Kinsey, Mike Love, and Irie Love, “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit” was made possible with the help of a few familiar faces as well, including Jason Tamba, Mermans Mosengo, and Roberto Luti, all of the PFC Band. Currently, the band is just coming off an amazing adventure in Colorado, USA, where they played four shows from Colorado Springs, to Denver, and a two-day stay at Vail for the GoPro Mountain Games Festival. Beyond the band, past PFC collaborators like Jack Johnson, Paula Fuga, and even Washboard Chaz all make heartwarming appearances in another video once again, showing their remarkable talent and continued support of the movement.
If you didn’t already know, Paula’s performance on “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit” is an extra-special collaboration, as it unites Bob Marley’s 1977 song with her own original composition. Written for her two nieces, “Just A Little Bit” is a beautiful melody that encourages strength, perseverance, and just a little bit more joy throughout all the hardship in life. Where “Natural Mystic” acknowledges the pain, suffering, and the truth that is bound to come, Paula gives us the will to carry on just a little bit longer.
Last featured in Island Style – ‘Oiwi E, Song Across Hawai’i, Paula is a cherished singer/songwriter and ukulele player, praised for her soulful and honest vocals, as well as her commitment to her community and culture. Growing up in a difficult environment surrounded by the wrong influences, Paula recognized the value of her role models, particularly her grandparents, and has taken it upon herself to use her talents and her spirit to reach out to those in need.
“Fuga relentlessly strives to inspire youth across the world, sharing her story of perseverance and hope. She makes countless efforts to participate in various community projects focusing on protecting the environment and spreading the fundamental values of her native Hawaiian culture. Fuga is an artist on a mission and music is her vehicle.“
Whether she’s playing at Madison Square Garden, the White House, or a beach in Hilo, Paula’s purpose is the same—to uplift her community, cherish her culture, and enjoy every minute of it. Paula’s story is certainly that of a woman on a mission to connect the world through music, and we are honored to have shared in this collaboration with her, as well as with every other musician that makes this movement possible.
As the Summer rolls on, be on the lookout for our next release, Rasta Children, coming early this July. Along with each Summer release, we will continue to post more artist spotlight blogs such as this one to show our appreciation for the voices behind the music, and the people behind the movement.
Quote of the Day:
“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”
Fan Photo of the Day: Special thank you to @hershe_june for this wonderful ‘Chaz’ inspired artwork. Click the link for similar drawings.
Throwback Video of the Day:
Finally, check out this video of the PFC Band playing live back in 2012.
The Playing For Change Band just completed its summer “United World Tour” in Europe and one very special show in Beirut, Lebanon. We have toured Europe for many years but this was the first ever PFC Band performance in the Middle East and we didn’t take it lightly. As much as I prefer to avoid the world’s stereotypes of where we can and should travel, I was concerned for the safety of the band and crew as we traveled to Beirut. The US State department clearly warns United States citizens should avoid travel to Lebanon but I remembered my father telling me it was once considered the “Paris” of the Middle East, full of life and culture.
I was determined to discover what life was like in this mysterious and potentially dangerous city. I contacted our local promoter, Amin Abiyaghi, and asked him to help us find some local musicians we could record/film for new PFC Songs Around The World as well as invite them to join our show and add some local flavor to our concert. He was more than happy to help me and so we began production through Skype and email; everyone seemed more than excited to join the PFC movement and support us in any way they could. We received our permits to film in and around Beirut and assembled an oud player, percussionist and female violinist to join us as well as a great Lebanese singer named, Yuri Mrakadi. A small crew with cameras and our mobile recording studio traveled with me a few days before the band was set to arrive from Milan, Italy to Nice, France and then onward to Beirut. I remember my heart was racing as we got closer to our destination as I was so curious about what type of place we would discover…
Since we started traveling the world with Playing For Change over 10 years ago I have personally traveled to about 50 countries but I never lose the excitement of discovering a new city, town or village and seeing it through the lens of their music and culture. Beirut, the Land of the Sun, brought out more emotion than I can remember in quite some time. It was a trip of battling my own internal fear and outward propaganda that demonized a once thriving city and made us feel unsure about our safety. Once the plane landed, it was too late to turn back and so we had to move forward a bit cautious but also full of excitement and determination to connect the world through music.
The next few days in Beirut where full of amazing people, food, music, and life experiences that will forever live inside our hearts and memories. The PFC band features 9 musicians from 9 countries and our Lebanese guests made it 10. The 1,000 plus crowd greeted us with loud applause and cheers as we took the stage and throughout the night you could see smiles, laughter, dancing, and singing—the ingredients essential for positive change and deep human connection. Our differences of religion, race, economics, and politics faded away and the music made us more united as people as we returned to the one group we are all a part of, the Human Race.
Thank you Beirut for your amazing hospitality and more importantly for your reminder that no matter how many things in life divide us, they are never as strong as the power of music to bring us together. We are all “United” people finding our way one heart and one song at a time.